It’s slipping into Pittsfield quietly, for just two staged readings, but John Rando’s latest musical project is going for a test drive Sunday and Monday, August 26-27 at 7pm. Location is the popular St. Germain Stage (formerly Stage 2) at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden Street, Pittsfield. Tickets are $15 (reserved seating).
I suspect many spots will be scooped up by New York cognoscenti anxious to see what this marvelous director is up to. It had an earlier test drive at the Musical Monday’s Theatre Lab in NYC this past February. The musical is going through a lot of quiet tinkering as its subject matter is just as unusual as Rando’s earlier show, Urinetown for which he won a Tony.
The Suicide, which is described as “a wacky original musical comedy set in Stalin’s brutal Soviet Union,” features music by Simon Gray, lyrics by Raymond Bokhour and book by David Bridel. It is adapted from the play by Nikolai Erdman, banned personally by Stalin.
It tells the story of Semyon Semyonovich Podsekalnikov, chronic loser, whose rash decision to commit suicide becomes the talk of the town in Stalin’s oppressive Moscow in the late 1920’s. Developed at the Tony-honored BMI Musical Theatre Workshop (where it received a raucous reception) presented here as part of the Barrington Stage Reading Series.
But things don’t go quite as planned. While the unemployed grumbler becomes convinced that suicide is his ticket to fame and glory, that is not to be. Before long, friends and neighbors are plotting to exploit his impending death for fun and profit, and while they’re at it, topple an entire regime.”
The story is based on a farce written by Nikolai Erdman in 1928. Stalin hated it, banned it, and sent its author to a Siberian labor camp for twenty years.
Critically acclaimed playwright David Bridel creates a timely adaptation of this black comedy that crackles with wit and snowballing insanity. The score by Gray and Bokhour is potent and exciting, filled with one killer song after another.
The Suicide features Christine Bokhour (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Masha, Tom Hewitt (Jesus Christ, Superstar/Chicago) as Aristarch, Jackie Hoffman (The Addams Family/Hairspray) as Serafima, Michael Thomas Holmes(BSC’s Guys and Dolls) as Semyon, James Ludwig (Spamalot) as Burkin/Dream Stalin, Max Perlman (Pugachov), Lyn Philistine (A Christmas Story, the Musical) as Cleopatra, Zachary Prince (On A Clear Day You Can See Forever) as Victor, and Gordon Stanley (BSC’s Guys and Dolls) as Fedya/Elpidi. Fred Lassen (Broadway’s South Pacific and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) is music director. Christopher Donovan is stage manager.
Barrington Stage Company, a professional award-winning Equity regional theatre located in the heart of the Berkshires, in Pittsfield, MA, was co-founded in 1995 by Artistic Director Julianne Boyd. Barrington Stage’s mission is three-fold: to present top-notch, compelling work; to develop new plays and musicals; and to find fresh, bold ways to bringing new audiences into the theatre—especially young people. Barrington Stage garnered national attention in 2004 when it workshopped, and premiered William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin’s musical hit The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which later transferred to Broadway where it won two Tony Awards and played more than 1,000 performances. In 2009/2010 Barrington Stage produced the world premiere of Mark St. Germain’s Freud’s Last Session, which later moved Off-Broadway and played 775 performances. Barrington Stage was voted “Best Live Theatre” by The Berkshire Eaglereaders in 2011 and 2012 and was named “Best Theatre Company” in Metroland’s Best of the Capital Region 2009-2012.